Village Seeks Business Engagement for Sustainability Initiatives

Village Seeks Business Engagement for Sustainability Initiatives

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, this month is a natural opportunity to update Northbrook’s efforts to encourage environmentally sustainable practices. The Village’s new Sustainability Commission is discussing steps to advance the Village’s Climate Action Plan, including programs that would encompass the local business community.

The Climate Action Plan approved in August 2021 set a variety of community goals in eight general categories: transportation and land use, buildings and energy, waste management, water and wastewater, local food and agriculture, health and safety, greenspace, and climate economy. The Sustainability Commission, with support from staff Sustainability Coordinator Tessa Murray, is working through specific action items prioritized by the Board of Trustees. A sampling of changes relevant to local businesses include:

Green Certification Program: The Village hopes to revamp its previous Green Business Award with a new Green Certification Program, addressing the CAP goal of “promot[ing] Northbrook as an environmentally friendly destination by highlighting the business that are taking steps to reduce resource consumption.”  An ongoing certification program has the advantage of recognizing a wide swath of companies rather than giving a single award each year. Participating businesses would receive a checklist of action items and work with Village staff to achieve as many of the goals as possible within the constraints of their individual situation. The business would then be awarded a bronze, silver or gold certificate and be eligible for marketing tools and recognition from the Village.

Currently, Sustainability Coordinator Murray is working with a small number of businesses in a pilot program to help develop the certification process. “We’re learning a lot from this initial process. Clearly, one size does not fit all and we will be adapting our checklists for different types of businesses,” says Murray. She welcomes input from businesses that would like to be added to the pilot program. “We want to collect more information before taking a complete certification program proposal to the Board of Trustees.”

Single-Use Bag Fees: The Sustainability Commission has also created language for a draft ordinance that would create a fee of 10 cents on single-use shopping bags. The strategy is intended to support the Climate Action Plan goal of phasing out single-use products by 2026, named one of the top priorities by the Village Trustees.

The ordinance language proposed by the Commission would apply to retail businesses over 3000 square feet. Covered businesses would be required to collect 10 cents for each bag used for purchases, with five cents retained by the business and five cents remitted to the Village. The proposed language includes rules for signage, recordkeeping, penalties, and some exclusions (e.g., restaurant takeout, dry cleaning bags, and grocery produce or bulk item bags).

The draft ordinance language, recommended by the Sustainability Commission on March 17, is being reviewed by the Village’s legal counsel. If the attorneys do not require significant changes to the draft, it may be sent to the Board of Trustees for consideration later this spring.  Village staff is requesting input from retailers and will host two virtual meetings for this purpose, on April 20 at 10:00 a.m. and April 21 at 4:00 p.m.  Contact Tessa Murray,, for the meeting invitation link.

Updated “Earth Month” Programming:  Northbrook’s traditional Earth & Arbor Day programs have been altered for 2022, after two years of pandemic-caused cancellations. Instead of a one-day informational event with exhibitors, the Village has launched a “Virtual Earth Day” page on its website. Organizations and businesses are encouraged to share links to websites, contact information, and explanations of their own sustainability initiatives. For details on how to participate, contact Tessa Murray by email or by phone at (847) 664-4134.

In addition, the Village and other organizations will sponsor both in-person and virtual environmental programming during the month of April. Volunteers are invited to help clear invasive buckthorn in Somme Woods on the morning of April 3, and residents can take advantage of drive-through recycling – and bring home a free tree sapling – at the downtown Metra train station on April 23.  Click here for details  about all Earth Month activities.

The Chamber will also start its own green education initiative in April with assistance from Go Green Northbrook and the Village. Watch for the Chamber’s Green Goal of the Week to be shared on our Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds every Monday beginning April 4.